What to Do on the First Day of Class

1. Classrooms

Make it a habit to check out your assigned room in advance, to see if it has the features you were expecting. If you must change rooms, ask your department room scheduler.

For physical classroom maintenance problems (desks, chairs, windows, chalk, blackboards, etc.), you can contact Classroom Central: 642-2800.

For audio/visual equipment requests, contact RTL's Classroom Technology Services.

2. Waiting Lists and "Shopping"

Every department has a different method for handling waiting lists, so check with your departmental administrative assistant or a colleague.

Remember that in many classes, students are "shopping" on the first day, don't be surprised if there is turnover. This should not prevent you from conducting the first class as if all those present will be there for the duration.

3. The First Day of Class

Here are some ideas for the first day of class:

  • Be Early. Arrive 5 minutes early for class. Whether inside or outside the classroom, let students know that you are ready to talk with them: smile, nod, make eye contact, chat, whatever suits your style.
  • Shake Hands. This simple gesture is powerful. In a large class, greet a few. You will find that those who are welcomed are more ready to respond in class.
  • Have Students Meet. Have students greet someone else in the class. Even if this ritual takes only 30 seconds, you should find that your class warms up considerably. Add some fun: have students use greeting rituals from various cultures, or ask students to create and lead the daily greeting (no embarrassing tricks allowed).
  • Social Ice Breakers. While often misunderstood and over-used, the right ice breaker can help a group of students get over the chill of anonymity.
  • Attention Grabber. Use a problem or a demonstration to capture students' imaginations about what is to come. Often, an intriguing example will provide a guiding context for the material that follows.
  • Make a real beginning to class. Not just on the first day, but every day. Don't say "We might was well get started" or "Let's get started." Try instead, "Good Morning, I'm Professor xyz. Welcome to Sociology 10."
  • Use the whole class period, tell your students about yourself, discuss your teaching-learning philosophy, demonstrate your mode of teaching, cultivate your students' trust, foster a spirit of free and open inquiry, display your enthusiasm for the subject, and finally, display a sense of humor. 
  • Don't run out of time. Have a real ending to the class, especially on the first day. Conclude with something like "I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday."
  • Consider handing out a questionnaire, "pre-test," or quiz to get to know your students, and to let them know what they will need to know. (See Sample First Day of Class Questionnaire.)